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We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.
“What Vols position group would correspond to what food on a Thanksgiving plate?” – @neylandmafia
Nathanael: This might be my favorite question we’ve ever gotten in the weekly mailbag. Here’s how I see it:
QB: Mashed Potatoes (because Guarantano has taken a beating)
RB: Stuffing (because they keep getting stuffed at the LOS)
WR: Pecan Pie (my personal favorite dish for Thanksgiving)
OL: Slaw (explains itself)
DL: Green Bean/Broccoli Casserole (not too flashy, but not usually bad)
LB: Deviled Eggs (they’re either really good or really, really bad)
CB: Baked Mac and Cheese (most people love it, but sometimes it’s a little inconsistent)
S: Roasted Turkey (looks good, but can be a little burned)
Coach: Cornbread (aight)
Ben: Honestly, I think Nathanael’s answer are perfect. Especially the quarterback, running back and O-line selections.
“Do you think Tyson Helton is receiving too much scrutiny as the OC and not receiving enough credit as QBs coach and the improvement of JG?” – Brian
Nathanael: I think that’s a fair question. Ben and I actually had a pretty in-depth discussion about Helton in the Tuesday episode of the RTI Podcast, but I don’t think we really went as deep in this area. I think he is getting a little too much criticism as a play-caller because he’s pretty hamstrung by what he can call because of Tennessee’s offensive line. I think he should get a good amount of credit for helping develop Guarantano, but I want to see what steps JG takes next season. To me, he’s shown improvement, but he still needs to take another step or two.
Ben: I understand the scrutiny Helton has received, but I have been in the camp all season long that he may be receiving a little too much scrutiny. I’m not saying he’s been great or anything, but for me, it’s a little hard to judge these coaches with the current roster. Especially with the offensive line Helton is dealing with.
“If we lose to Vandy, will that have a big impact on how we finish out the recruiting season? Or is Pruitt just that influential that it won’t matter?” – @OfficialKBunton
Nathanael: I think it’ll have more of an impact on the fan base than it would on the recruiting trail. I do wonder if some of the bigger names might be taken aback a little by the loss (especially if it’s a blowout like last year), but all in all I think it won’t affect too much in Tennessee’s recruiting. Pruitt and his staff have been consistent in their message all year about this season, and UT going 5-7 wouldn’t really surprise any of the recruits Tennessee is going after. They’ve shown progress from last year overall, and there’s plenty of opportunity available to all the incoming players.
Ben: Tennessee could lose by 50 to Vanderbilt and I don’t believe it will hurt the Vols’ recruiting efforts. Pruitt is selling playing time, and even a loss can be spun positively in year one. It’s weird to think, but a loss is as positive in terms of recruiting as a win. The guys Tennessee is targeting are primed for early playing time, and when the Vols have lost to Florida and Missouri this season, they’ve been able to say, “look at what happened today, we really need you.” That sells hard with recruits.
“What is more influential in your mind when it comes to recruiting, the pitch from the coaches and school or peer recruiting? For example, Wanya Morris trying to get Owen Pappoe and maybe even Kenyatta Watson to flip to Tennessee.” – Murphy
Nathanael: That’s a very good question. I think it can depend on the recruit, but usually I would side with the pitch from coaches over peer recruiting. I do think peer recruiting is important, but a coach showing you all the NFL players he’s helped coach and develop in college outweighs playing with your buddies.
Ben: Peer recruiting is important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the end all be all. If Owen Pappoe flips to Tennessee, it won’t be because Wanya Morris was in his ear, it’ll be because of Pruitt’s pitch.
“What is the possibility that we sign a few grad transfer OL to help shore up the line for next year?” – Daniel
Nathanael: I don’t really think you’ll see as many grad transfers get brought in next season like you did this year. I think UT will go after Jalen McCleskey at receiver and maybe another offensive lineman or defensive lineman, but I don’t think Tennessee will bring in more than two grad transfers this offseason.
Ben: That’s a good question. I think it would have to be the perfect situation – kind of like how Brandon Kennedy was last offseason. I don’t necessarily think Tennessee has to because it’ll have high-level talent coming in as freshmen that should be able to start right away. Getting some grad transfer O-linemen would be good for the depth, but that may be hard to sell to someone who has just one year left.
“Will JJP redshirt & what’s your personal o/u on turkey legs eaten?” – @tjvol49
Nathanael: Right now, J.J. Peterson has officially been credited with four appearances this season on UT’s official roster. He’s played against Alabama, Charlotte, Kentucky, and Missouri. So he can’t appear in the Vanderbilt game if he wants to redshirt this year. And as for the turkey legs, I’m going to eat at least one, but I might go for both. Turkey legs are one of my all-time favorites.
Ben: He better redshirt. It’ll be a mistake and a disservice to Peterson if he doesn’t. I’m a fan of turkey, but I prefer ham. I’ll have both, but my plate will have much more ham on it.
“Men’s basketball: Tennessee meets Duke for the national championship this year who wins?” – @htcook1999
Nathanael: Duke. I think Tennessee is really good, but I’m not sure they can hang with Duke in a National Championship Game. That Blue Devil squad just looks to be really, really good this year. The Vols would be the most physical team Duke would play in my opinion, but I think the Blue Devils would edge them out.
Ben: Tennessee, 100-50.
Realistically, I think the Vols could give Duke a game. Tennessee is just as good, if not better than Auburn, and the Tigers gave the Blue Devils a game this week. If Tennessee caught Duke on a bad day, I definitely think the Vols could win.